A joint team of Russian scientists from Rosatom, the state nuclear energy corporation, and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) claim to have blown up model asteroids measuring less than an inch wide with lasers in an experimental setup. The primary aim of the study was to find out how Earth could be prevented from being wiped out by a giant space rock.
In 2013, a stony meteorite landed in Lake Chebarkul following the Chelyabinsk strike in Russia. Russian scientists constructed miniature asteroids in lab based on the composition of that meteorite.
The experiment revealed that to blow up a 650 foot wide asteroid approaching towards Earth, a laser would need to deliver the energy equivalent of three megatons of TNT—the equivalent of 200 Hiroshima bombs.
In 1961, Soviet Union detonated the world’s most powerful explosive device, the Tsar Bomba, or “king of bombs,” that produced energy output of about 50 metatons of TNT.
“At the moment, there are no asteroid threats, so our team has the time to perfect this technique for using later in preventing a planetary disaster,” said study co-author Vladimir Yufa, an associate professor at the departments of Applied Physics and Laser Systems and Structured Materials, MIPT.
“We’re also looking into the possibility of deflecting an asteroid without destroying it and hope for international engagement.”
Asteroids are the space rocks consisting of silicon, carbon, metal, and sometimes ice also. They can be as big as 900 kilometers across, and when they travel at a speed of 10 miles per second, they present a threat of wiping out life on Earth after colliding with it.
Scientists believe an asteroid that hit the Earth about 65 million years ago wiped out dinosaurs from the planet.
Russian researchers are now planning to carry out experiments with asteroid replicas of different composition, including those containing nickel, iron, and ice. They will also try to analyze the impact of asteroid shape and presence of cavities on its surface on the general destruction criterion.
The detailed findings of the study will be published in upcoming edition of the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics.